Snow Sunday: Cheating In Crested Butte

When you live in Telluride, going to a different ski mountain can feel illicit. In the words of fellow snow writer, Jesse McTigue, it can feel almost like “an affair”. You see the new mountain with forgiving eyes, and everything is fresh and exciting.

Telluride rugratsAndy and I have been cheating on Telluride for a long time. Whenever we want a quick getaway, we go to Crested Butte. We go there in the summer and camp along the banks of the Slate River, rising in the morning to ride its glorious bike trails and hike in Oh Be Joyful’s Valley. We’ve even convinced other Telluridians to join us in our affair. Last summer, we took over 3 campsites at Slate River. By the end of the week, there was a pack of mud-faced, blond-haired children riding bikes around the place as if they owned it: the majority of them were from Telluride.

And we go there in the winter to ski its funky, steep mountain, skate ski its Nordic trails, and skate laps at its hockey rink. It may seem strange to travel to a small mining-turned ski town when we live in one but in the words of anyone who was spent time in Southeast Asia, “it’s the same, same but different”. For a few days, we can walk through a quaint Victorian town and not be recognized by anyone. I don’t mean this in an anti-social way; one of my favorite things about Telluride is wandering Main Street on any given day and knowing the better part of the street. Still, there’s something magical about holding hands with your sweetie and getting the chance to chat with only him. We can meander into gear shops and book shops, grab coffee at Camp Four and cocktails at the Dogwood and for a few days, we get to be travelers. We get to meet new people, see new things, and in turn, see our own world with fresh eyes. Nothing’s that different but everything feels novel.

crested-butte-nighttime-web1Most recently, we snuck away to Crested Butte for a weekend of skiing. We had in-laws in town to watch our children and found a deal at the base of the mountain, Elevation, a ski-in, ski-out spa and resort. It was an opportunity to tempting to resist.

Crested Butte had just gotten a lot of snow, nearly double what Telluride had received in the past month. There was so much snow in fact that you couldn’t see into the first floor windows of many of the houses on Main Street. After we had skied a few fresh lines on Banana Peel and in Spellbound Bowl, I found myself doing exactly what Jesse had done when she skied amazing snow at Alta; I was contemplating a longer term commitment. My love for the town was shifting from infatuation to something more permanent. Good snow had tipped the scale. Andy and I were riding a T-bar, a 2-person Poma lift that is commonplace in Crested Butte and something Andy and I have jokingly called “couple therapy” as you could easily shove the other person off the T-bar if you weren’t being careful or if you just felt like being a little nasty. Andy read my thoughts, something that’s starting to happen with an eerie regularity, “Crested Butte or Telluride?”

I hesitated. The coffee is better as are the cocktails. The Nordic system is expansive. There are endless miles of single-track, most of which is maintained far better than Telluride’s trail system is. The T-bar ground to a halt; we dangled on the steep hill, perched between going up and down. “Telluride,” I said, “Bluegrass and the people and it’s….”

“Our town?” Andy offered.

“Exactly,” I said.

We’ll leave Telluride for Crested Butte, drawn to that quirky valley with its mile-high snow and superior biking. But we’ll always turn back around after a few days, traveling back through time over passes that miners used to climb with mules in search of gold, returning as we always do to the place we get to call home: Telluride.

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